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SAM Shop: Creative Pottery with Deb Schwartzkopf

Earlier this month we had to cancel a book signing event featuring highly regarded Seattle potter, Deb Schwartzkopf. We were so sad to miss this chance to learn about her innovative techniques and see her newest collection of work in person, but the good news is, you can find her new book online at SAM Shop! Learn more about this artist and her book below.

Explore and gain new skills in pottery with local artist Deb Schwartzkopf in her recently published book, Creative Pottery: Innovative Techniques & Experimental Designs in Thrown & Handbuilt Ceramics. This book provides tutorials in the basic tools and techniques for beginners, while also refreshing foundational skills with new techniques and inspiration for experienced potters. The introductory chapter includes essential information, such as: setting goals, building a basic tool kit, setting up a wheel, and making and using templates. Later chapters add complexity through ideas such as decorative edges, bisque molds, and throwing closed forms.

Deb Schwartzkopf introduces these foundational and new techniques to potters through step-by-step photos, templates that can be used by readers, and beautiful photos of her work and the work of other active American potters. In each chapter, she profiles one or two potters, showing images of their work and asking them questions about their techniques, inspiration, and artistic process. These profiles provide readers with context about current work in the field and illustrations of how the techniques and ideas taught in the book can be employed. Through this book, potters can learn how to create many forms, including: cake stands, bud vases, goblets, teapots, pitchers, dessert boats, and juicers, all illustrated with photos and clear instructions.

Schwartzkopf is a studio potter, instructor, and active artist in Seattle. Her studio, Rat City Studios, has evolved into a communal clay establishment, where she teaches classes, creates her pottery, and mentors assistants. Schwartzkopf was born in Seattle, earned her MFA from Penn State University, and taught at schools including: University of Washington, Ohio University, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She was named Ceramics Monthly and Ceramic Arts Daily’s 2019 Artist of the Year. With her pottery, she works to make tableware that infuses life with purposeful beauty. Learn new techniques or inspire an artist you know with this new book, on sale now at the SAM Shop.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Images: Quarry Publishing, matisse lb photography

Object of the Week: Black pottery vase in shape of hu

SAM’s remarkable Black pottery vase in shape of hu is among the museum’s earliest acquisitions. The vase’s object number, 33.6, communicates that it was the sixth piece formally accessioned in the museum’s inaugural year of 1933, and of the objects added to the collection that year, the vase is the first to survive deaccessioning; sadly, 33.1 through 33.5 are no longer with us.

Dr. Fuller purchased this Warring States period ceramic jar for $150 from a New York dealer named Roland Moore. Roland, the son of a Chinese dealer named Rufus, continued in the family business, selling mainly snuff bottles and ceramics.1  The vase is just one of 259 items that Fuller purchased from Moore, and though not every one of these selections was a home run, Fuller did benefit from the connection, establishing the beginnings of a strong Asian ceramics collection that we enjoy today.

Dr. Fuller, who has been proven over time a very successful collector, was still developing his taste at this early stage. He landed on the Black pottery vase in shape of hu at a moment when he was moving beyond his initial collecting interest—snuff bottles—and looking to jades and ceramics. While expanding the art forms he considered for acquisition, he simultaneously became interested in adding Chinese works from various dynasties to increase the breadth of the collection. This vase, with its intriguing decorative designs, and its 3rd-century B.C. date, added new dimensions to SAM’s Chinese collection.

For me, the vase is a tour de force in imitation. Though ceramic, it imitates bronze by its burnished shade of brown-black, echoing patina. The taotie mask that adorns two sides of the vase is a typically bronze decorative motif, but here it is, carefully worked onto the body of an earthenware piece. At the historical moment when the vase was made, ceramic offered an economic alternative to costlier bronze; hence we see a ceramic dressed up as a bronze.

Fascinating geometric and animal designs adorn the vase. As our eye scans it, we notice that horizontal ridges attempt to organize the decoration into separate registers. On the neck and on the largest register of the body, scaly beasts look backward toward curling tails. Jagged vertical lines mark the first register below the neck; the second register features nesting triangles interspersed with sawtooth serrations; in another register beneath that, irregular diamonds run across the vase, linked together by script-like horizontal lines.

Throughout the vase, an interesting dialogue occurs between the potter and the decorator—maybe a conflict between a regimented and more freeform approach to artistic decoration. The indented bands that separate the vase into its various registers would have been formed when the vase was initially thrown, probably on a potter’s wheel; the incised decoration was added later. On the middle of the vase, notice how the legs and feet of the dragon creatures transgress the boundaries of their register, creeping over the horizontal bands. I liken this decoration to coloring outside the lines. It’s as if the dragon, mysterious and powerful, refused to be contained by the space allotted to it. Elsewhere, too, we see incised design overlapping the structuring horizontal bands and playfully interacting with the form of the vase, creating a final impression of an artwork that is, itself, a conversation.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGE: Black pottery vase in shape of hu, ca. 3rd century B.C., Chinese, Warring States period (481-256 B.C.), black earthenware with incised decoration, 13 13/16 in.; girth: 31 1/4 in.; diam. top: 4 1/2 in. Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.6, Photo: Paul Macapia.
1 Josh Yiu, A Fuller View of China, Seattle, Wash.: Seattle Art Museum, 2014; 36-37.